I’m readying myself to launch a campaign to market my latest novel, Swindle in Sawtooth Valley, as well as the other five books that have been falling out of print recently. It will make six all in all. There will be more and more about this as the next weeks go on. However, it occurred to me that it might be interesting, if only to me, to recap where my writer self has been and where he might be going.
Watch for streaming events and interviews in the coming weeks featuring yours truly. I am excited to think I finally might be able to persuade folks to get out there, purchase my work, and read read read.
My publishing history has been checkered, meaning that if its meanders were pigmented and divided into colored squares somewhat like Joseph’s coat of many colors, it would look like a kids’ game scrambled. Starting I many a year ago I began writing and writing I submitting and enrolling in workshops and conferences. I got positive feedback that translated into meager results–a flash fiction piece here, a short story there, etc., none of which translated into cash. I never did have serious dreams of blockbuster success–pulitzers, movie deals and the like–but I did want someone to actually publish something of mine, and I wanted people to read it and, of course, love it. For years, I typed and typed, looked for publishers, bought countless 9×12 envelopes, patronized our failing postal system (I like to think I’ve helped keep it alive, limping though it is.), catalogued reams of rejections (“does not fit our needs” seems to be a favorite sentence that accompanies the thrust of the rejection dagger.” I of course eschewed what we in the old days called “vanity presses”, organizations who were glad to put your words in print as long as you paid a generous toll. Not me. I wanted someone else to pay for the copyreading, the cover, the printing, and the distribution.
Then, along came Solstice Publishers. Suddenly, after all those years of typing stuff up and sending it in, The Maxwell Vendetta was ready to hit the shelves, and my publishing career proper was born. Then came The Second Vendetta. A sequel to The Maxwell Vendetta. I had become the creator of a frontier family saga set in a part of northern california where I had grown up, still lived, and to which I was devoted. “Profound satisfaction” is not too strong a term to apply to what I felt about all this. History had always been a love of mine, and here was a chance to pen tales set in a period of history in a locale where I felt at home and to make my work available to one and all.
I then decided to extend my reach. I’d been dealing with people and events of the turn of the 20th century–1910-1914, to be exact. I didn’t feel as if I wanted to get more contemporary than that, so I turned the other way, jumping back into another period in which I felt just as comfortable and with which I was just as fascinated. Bonita was a 12-year old girl living in Yerba Buena (later San Francisco), privileged and spirited. Then it all fell apart. Spoiler? Maybe so. Read it and get the whole experience. The story gave me the chance to trace her coming of age through major events of the mid-19th century. The anglo settling of Mexican California, the Mexican-American war, the gold rush. Her adventures are many, painful, and triumphant. Bonita got a sequel, too. You Can’t Keep Her, traces the adult Bonita’s attempt to discover who her real parents were. I had great fun taking her back to New Orleans as she searched.
Then things went in still another direction. A writing colleague whom I had met through a mutual internet friend (Les Edgerton by name), proposed a project that seemed completely out of my wheelhouse. Bob Stewart was a native Texan who’d been exploring the history of the woman who was the real, authentic Yellow Rose (know that song, “The Yellow Rose of Texas?”. That’s what this was all about.) Bob wanted us to collaborate. The whole thing would be set during the Texas revolution of 1836. “But Bob,” I told him. “I know nothing about that event. Plus, all I know about Texas I got from reading the papers and driving through it one time years ago.” Well, he wouldn’t let go. Somehow he thought that his Texas Christian conservatism and my California liberalism could make a match. Intrigued and, frankly, flattered I agreed. The result was The Yellow Rose, the tale of one Emily West (or “Morgan” as she is known around San Antonio, et al) and her supposed part in defeating Santa Anna and the Mexican army and establishing the Texas Republic, all in the course of a few momentous months. We were both (justifiably, I think) proud of the book. I’m happy that Bob got a chance to see and hold it in his hands before he passed away shortly after its publication.
During all this, my book sales lagged from paltry to non-existent. Finally, Solstice cut me loose. I was nicely set up as a writer, but a sad excuse for a marketer. As benevolent as Solstice was in other respects, they gave their clients little or no help in the promotion department. It was up to us to find readers and persuade them to buy our books. I’m told this is a common circumstance these days. You don’t get book tours and interviews and all the rest unless you”re an A-lister, which I wasn’t and still aren’t. So for that publisher, it was so long, Carl, been good to know ya. I don’t blame Solstice. They had to make a buck and I wasn’t helping.
I’m too old (80 at this writing) to go back to play that mailing game I did for so many years, but I am not ready to give up either writing or publishing. I finally turned to my current outfit, Readers Magnet. I’m paying a lot of money ($900 per) to put my books back in print after Solstice bid me farewell. At this stage in my life I have some money to spend, and I want to be able to get my books back out there as well as the one, Swindle in Sawtooth Valley, which never has been out there. This one is installment number three of the saga of the Maxwell family, that story which began so long ago with The Maxwell Vendetta.
So, if you’ve been counting, that makes six historical novels. It makes six historical novels even if you haven’t been counting. That’s my total ouvre except for those short pieces I mentioned earlier.